Have you ever found yourself unconsciously peeking through the windows of random houses you pass by? Have you found it bizarre that many houses keep their curtains so open? Have you even been fascinated by some really cool window displays that in fact belong to residential houses? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might just be in the Netherlands.
The Dutch Way: Transparent Living
If there’s a checklist of how Dutch you are, then the thing about curtains that are never closed and windows that are so “transparent” definitely makes the list. After more than six months living here, I can attest to this unique cultural phenomenon.
I still remember the one song they played during Orientation Week that goes something like Dutch people never keep their curtains down. Now that I’ve moved to an apartment on the ground floor, I feel like I have truly had the taste of living a Dutch life.
The Window Incident
Not long ago, I had quite an interesting “window incident.” One day, I was doing my morning skincare routine, still wearing my shower cap (because well, long hair), and all of a sudden I looked up to see a guy passing by, staring at me and obviously laughing. It was super embarrassing, of course, but also hilarious. This incident is definitely something that I will remember about living in the Netherlands.
Theories Behind the Open Curtain Culture
There are surprisingly a number of theories regarding this particular habit of the Dutch. Some say it’s a symbol of transparency and honesty, others believe it’s a way of showing off their interior design.
However, I’m leaning more towards the simple explanation that here sunshine is scarce and thus Dutch people would try to get as much light as possible into their houses. Indeed, if you live in a place where it’s rainy and gloomy for like five days a week, then you would not want to keep your curtains closed all the time. And who cares if strangers know what happens inside the house?
Window Watching: A Unique Dutch Pastime
But putting that aside, I find it quite entertaining to take a random stroll around the residential streets of Leiden and… look at windows. You will be surprised by the amount of effort they put into decorating their window displays.
What is even more interesting is that all the ornaments are facing you, the outsider, rather than those who live in the house. So it’s clearly displayed in a way for us to see, which is a very fascinating cultural difference that I have experienced.
Living in the Netherlands has been a journey of cultural discovery, and the open-window culture is one of the most intriguing aspects. It’s a testament to the Dutch people’s love for light, their sense of humor, and their openness to the world. As I continue my journey here, I look forward to more such fascinating experiences and cultural insights.